EU law says that cat owners must keep their pets inside

Arie Trouwborst, an environmental law specialist at Tilburg University in the Netherlands and Han Somsen, at the same university, say that European Union law insists that cat owners in Europe should keep the cats inside the home to protect wildlife.

In any event, from the EU law perspective it is ultimately the result that counts, and our analysis appears to indicate that the required result in all countries of the EU is, in principle, a landscape without free-ranging domestic cats. – Trouwborst and Somsen.

A gavel and a law book - European union
A gavel and a law book – European union. Photo: © Zerbor.
Two useful tags. Click either to see the articles:- Toxic to cats | Dangers to cats

He claims that the implementation of the European Union Birds Directive with regard to native birds and the Habitats Directive is long overdue (“in arrears”). He appears to be saying that European Union countries need to comply with European Union law and the governments should be insisting that their citizens keep cats inside the home. He argues that the threat of domestic cat predation on wildlife must be addressed by member states under EU nature conservation law. Further, he says that “stray and feral cats are to be removed or controlled when they pose a threat to protected species and/or sites”. This suggests mass slaughter of feral cats.

Regarding pet and farm cats, the Nature Directives require EU member states to ensure that letting them roam free is forbidden and effectively prevented.- Trouwborst and Somsen.

Interests of cat owners and conservationists are aligned

Biodiversity is a pressing problem on the planet and it includes the European Union. A lot has been written about free-roaming domestic cats posing a threat to wildlife and therefore European biodiversity. Trouwborst says that it is a relatively simple step to have a big impact on conservation of wildlife, namely, keep domestic cats indoors. They also suggest that in doing so cat owners will be aligning the interests of conservationists with their own interests which is to keep their cats safe. We know that allowing a domestic cat to free roam has advantages in terms of allowing natural behaviour but, particularly in the urban environment, it is potentially dangerous mainly due to traffic.

He has an argument but cat owners push back very strongly against this sort of argument and clearly European Union member state governments don’t agree with him. If he is correct then European Union countries conveniently overlook this aspect of the law. It doesn’t surprise me because the European Union is a bit like that. They are selective as to which laws they should enforce and which they should conveniently overlook.

“I get quite sick of the conflict focus of some conservation biologists,” says Wayne Linklater at California State University, Sacramento. He claims that the solution lies with cat lovers and owners and not conservationists and those who dislike cats and their predation on wildlife. He’s correct but they won’t change their ways unless forced to by a change to the law. All the discussions at local authority level about cat confinement occurs in America, Australia and New Zealand and not the EU.


Arie Trouwborst’s scientific paper published on the Journal of Environmental Law website on 27 November 2019 provoked quite a lot of argument. He is arguing pretty soundly but after a short period of debate and heat being generated, it has now been consigned to the archives and ignored. There is no possibility that the governments of EU member states are going to hand down animal law which confines all domestic cat in the European Union to the home. It is politically impossible. The government enacting such a law would lose a lot of voters so they won’t do it. We have to conclude, therefore, that the European law in this regard is ineffective and should be changed. If a law cannot be followed properly by EU member states then it doesn’t work.

Road traffic accidents

It is worth mentioning that Dr Bruce Fogle DVM the well-known author and veterinarian writes that it has been estimated that half of all cats that venture outdoors will be involved in road traffic accidents. He further states that half of those cats won’t survive. That’s a pretty unsettling statement. Perhaps people who let their cats roam freely are unaware of the danger or switched off to it. I’m not suggesting one thing or the other. I understand the need to let cats roam freely and the difficulties of keeping them inside the home all the time. I’m not going to comment on that either way. This is an article about European Union law and whether it really can be enforced in respect of freeroaming domestic cats and the conclusion is that it can’t.

Human activity

Arie Trouwborst’s scientific paper addresses domestic and feral cats. You have to look at the bigger picture and the predation of wildlife by domestic cats in the context of a wider picture which includes human activity and humans’ damage to the environment and the conservation of wildlife and biodiversity. What I’m saying is that European Union governments can achieve more initially by controlling human activity better in the context of conservation rather than focusing on domestic cats in homes.


The UK will be out of the picture on 1st Jan 2021. So that solves the problem of enforcing the EU’s directives from the UK’s perspective. They won’t have to.

Link to the scientific article.

Leave a Comment

follow it link and logo